In a nutshell
If you fancy sitting on tiny stools in the middle of the street and enjoying 4 pints of beer for a dollar while gorging on the yummiest food, Hanoi is your kind of place. They say Vietnamese cuisine is one of the best in Asia, they are correct. After crossing the amazing metal bridges with the Red River running under it during heavy rainfall, we reached the action packed Old Quarter from the Hanoi airport. We walked around with huge umbrellas borrowed from our hotel, trying to brave the scooter traffic to reach the quaint little restaurants and bars in the Old Quarter. The streets are full of life and happiness all day, and the evenings are lit up with joy.
Just adjoining the Old Quarter is the Hoan Kiem Lake identified by the red bridge and the Turtle Tower. One can take a lovely stroll around Haon Kiem Lake on weekends where children approach tourists to practice English. In the daytime, you can head to one of the coffee shops overlooking the lake to enjoy the view while sipping on amazing coffee. On weekend nights, you can visit their night market, purchase memorabilia and enjoy some street food. Don’t forget to spot the tiniest dogs with the locals that are never on a leash. We however did spot a child handcuffed to their mother here.
When you need a breather from the crowd, walk around the gorgeous French Quarter with magnificent buildings and posh hotels. You can also head to the West Lake or Ho Tay to see the sunset.
Hanoi has recovered from the war and rebuilt a memorable travel destination in a short span of time. Their history can be seen in places like the Prison Museum, Women’s Museum and Ho Chi Mihn Museum.
Lastly, if you are already in Ha Noi, you must also visit Ha Long Bay. A UNESCO world heritage site consisting of tiny limestone islands. It will take your breath away, we promise you that.
How to get there
There are many flights that go from Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Hop into one of them and reach Hanoi in 3 hours or less. However, there are no direct flights from Delhi, so you have to go to one of these places and fly from there. We picked Singapore Airlines which is very comfortable, even for the 12 hour long journey.
After reaching Hanoi, the immigration process is very long and taxing. It would be best to find a visa service in your country before going. We would also strongly advise you to make arrangements with your hotel for airport transfers. Ours charged $18 one way.
Where to Stay
We picked the Hanoi LaSelva which connects the Old Quarter and the French Quarter making it a perfect location. The hotel is small but very clean and beautiful. Hanoi LaSelva knows hospitality well. From exchanging currencies, to lending umbrellas, to recommending the best places to visit to arranging tours; Hanoi LaSelva had it all. They packed us snacks for our day trip to Ha Long Bay and gifted us the most amazing filter coffee when we left.
The only drawback was that our room had no window, as a result of which we felt a tad disoriented. If that bothers you, you can pick a more premium room at the hotel.
Other popular choices are Hanoi La Siesta Hotel, Hanoi E Central Hotel and Hanoi Pearl hotel in the Old Quarter.
If you are looking for something fancier Sofitel Metropole Hotel and Melia Hotel at the French Quarter are conveniently located.
If you want to head further west and stay in a quiet area, InterContinental West Lake is one of the top picks too.
Food of Hanoi
As we mentioned before, Vietnamese cuisine is one of the best in Asia. Here’s a list of everything we tried and where to find it.
A classic Vietnamese lunch dish with pork patties in a sweet and sour served with lettuce and coriander and a side of vermicelli. We added a portion of pork spring roll to that.
Have this at: Bun Cha Ta, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cost for two: 100,000-200,000 vnd
Mì Xào Bò
A breakfast classic. Stir fried egg noodles with beef with crunchy vegetables.
Have this at: Xupito Bar, Beer Corner, Haon Kiem
Cost of one portion: 90,000 vnd
Another breakfast dish. A big bowl of soup with a lot of meat and veggies. There are various stalls in Old Quarter that serve this if you walk around. We also had this at our hotel
Cost for two: 70,000-100,000 vnd
Paper thin layered Viatnamese spring rolls with shredded meat and veggies inside.
Have this at: We had it at our hotel but the Wrap and Roll around Haon Kiem Lake is famous for it
Fresh noodle roll with beef mince served with Nuoc Cham, a sweet dipping sauce with a fish sauce base and flavors like sugar, vinegar and chili.
Have this at: We had this at our hotel but it can be found in Pho Cuon 31 and Pho Cuon Huong Mai
PHO CHIEN PHONG
Beef stir fry with rice pillows
Where to find this: Pho Cuon Huong Mai, Ho Tay
Cost of one portion: 50,000-60,000 vnd
A Vietnamese crispy baguette sandwich filled with veggies, egg and meat
Have this at:
Banh Mi 25. Cost for 2: 40,000-50,000 vnd
Banh My lan ong. Cost for 2: 40,000-50,000 vnd
Steamed rice rolls with pork and fried garlic
We had it out hotel but Banh Cuon Gia Truyen in the Old Quarter is famous for it.
Hanoi is famous for its French cuisine as well. We had the most delicious pork ribs in Hanoi
Have this at: Green tangerine has a set lunch of 275000 vnd without dessert and 350000 vnd with dessert
Beef kebabs and Tandoori Chicken
Have this at: Little India Or PK Spice
Cost for two: 200,000-300,000 vnd
For home buy Poca Chips, rice crackers and the Vietnamese chilli sauce Chin-Su.
Drinks in Hanoi
Egg coffee: Creamy and delicious Hanoi’s famous egg coffee.
Have it at: Giang café
Cost of 1: 20,000 vnd
Saigon Iced coffee with milk: Strong and smooth Vietnamese iced coffee. Sure to energize you after a long hike.
Have it at : Cong Caphe
Cost of 1: 30-45,000 vnd
Fresh Juices: Watermelon, orange, mango and passion fruit are available at most places for 15-25,000 vnd and help rehydrate one.
Hanoi cold green iced tea: Light and refreshing. Have with a meal to digest it. Cost of one: 10,000 vnd
Beer: Try Ha Noi Beer, Saigon Beer and Tiger beer available at every 50 steps at the old quarter. Cost of one is 15-50,000 vnd depending on how fancy the bar is. Our top bar picks were Xupito Bar, Local Bar, Polite Pub, Song Anh Coffee and Bihn Mihn’s Jazz Club.
Museums and Pagodas
We do not usually visit museums and religious places, but we couldn’t resist some of them
Women’s Museum: A 4 floor packed museum is dedicated to the women in Ha Noi, their contribution to the war, marriage customs, childbirth in the olden days, female goddesses and successful modern age women.
Ho Chi Mihn Museum: The final resting place of the Vietnamese leader where there is a march past everyday with a museum with facts about him and the struggles of rebuilding this nation
Prison Museum: Now turned into a museum, the political prisoners were kept at the Hỏa Lò Prison by the French colonists, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. This place would still give you the chills.
One pillar pagoda: Considered as one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam for it believed to look like a lotus blossom, the symbol of purity, rising out of a sea of sorrow. This is adjoining the Ho Chi Mihn Museum in the Ho Tay area.
Chill by the lakes
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ho Tay
On Weekends, the area around Hoan Kiem Lake is sealed off for vehicles allowing tourists can walk around easily. There are a lot of local items one can purchase here or enjoy an icecream or juice in the hot weather.
They also have a night market on weekends if you want to buy memorbilias and enjoy bright buzzing streets.
Ho Tay: The best part about Ho Tay is that it serves delicious sea food around the clock. Along the lake there are numerous coffee shops that serve beer that you can enjoy with the sunset. While we waited to record the perfect sunset, it poured quite heavily so we were forced to do indoors. Although that didn’t stop us from enjoying crispy fries with their chilli sauce and the yummy Saigon beer.
Total cost for two[expander_maker more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]
Airfare: Rs.50,000 (Singapore Airlines)
Hotel: Rs. 10,000 (for 4 nights)
Visa: Rs. 5126 ($15 each for online application followed by $25 each for visa on arrival)
Airport transfers: Rs. 2307
Eating, shopping, drinking in Hanoi City and Singapore airport (4 days): Rs. 20,000
Ha Long Bay Day trip: 6793
Total: Approx. 94, 226
Download the Grab app to travel and try to cover whatever you can by walking. You can find a local sim card from Viettle. Google Maps is very accurate. As a rule of thumb, negotiate for everything for purchase by 50% from street vendors. Carry an umbrella if you mind the rain. It can rain anytime and the downpour is rather heavy. Carry messenger bags or sling bags to avoid getting pick pocketed.
While you are there, try to live like a local and not a tourist. Ha Noi wakes up as early as 5.30. Most restaurants shut down by 10.30 and bars are open till maximum 12. To continue the party, you can purchase beer from a convenience store near you till 2am. If you are still craving food and drinks, Ho Tay is open for 24 hours so you can head there.
And lastly, have fun. Tạm Biệt